Thick and fast, a black line in the sky racing over lake Konstanz blurring everything behind it with a wall of water.
We watched it come. After getting off the bikes on the second time around Uberlingen for some food and a map check.
We found a tree to shelter under and ate lunch with the ducks – some bread, cheese and salami that we’d bought the day before. People with umbrellas walking past, staring, unsmiling, turning away if we spoke or smiled at them. At times like these I can’t help but hate these people devoid of humanity or so it seems, every country has them. I left the UK to be away from them. I get a tiny insight into how dehumanising it must be to be on the streets. But only a tiny one. Still, I have a choice. I have money to get a roof over our heads and get dry if we really need it. I have the power to stop it all. That makes the world of difference. But as I sit and contemplate why I’m doing this to myself I realise why not? These people and their self-centric attitudes will still exist. I will still be incapable of tolerating them. I have to go on and understand something more about them and myself, and the world and how to live with it all.
I don’t expect people to help, to offer anything. But I feel entitled to expect that they acknowledge my existence as they stare at me and sate their curiosity. That they offer a fleeting connection instead of being so self-absorbed and voyeuristic. Maybe this is too much to ask. But if it is I’m not interested in living in this place or any like it.
The rain is testing even Mickey today and I know I don’t help. My mood switches instantly with the weather and he hates to see me unhappy. It’s just that everything is balanced so much more on a thinner knife edge now. The tiniest thing has me see-sawing into rapture or blackness. Lack of sleep isn’t helping, it colours everything and carpel tunnel syndrome exacerbated by the daily bike riding along with hayfever interfering with night-time breathing has my already light sleep breaking multiple times through the night. Last night’s sleep had been further disturbed by children playing hide and seek around the tent at 6 am and a circus band that played late into the evening. Close as the campsite was to the city the noise of drunks and traffic had topped off the whole cacophony and cemented both our views that campsites in cities would from now on be disregarded…beggars can’t be choosers, but we’ll do our best not to make that mistake again.
So, back to sleep deprived after a promising start. And now wet, cold and sleep deprived, a perfect recipe for misery.
We hit the road on a different route than we’d planned the night before, opting for South, towards the Alps after having chatted to a couple who recommended Kingschlossen – the castle that the Disney castle was reportedly based on. We’d not factored in the fact that this route would be heavily populated by tourist drivers. Then there was the fact that it was Saturday. There was a noticeable switch in driving behaviour and it was all I could do to stop myself flipping the middle finger to every ass that had given Mickey’s back tyre a close-up inspection. We’re just obstacles to them. And now the rain. Wonderful. I’ve always felt I have difficulty being in the moment but actually, at least when tired, I get so utterly consumed by it. I vehemently hated Germany and the world at large at that moment.
The deluge eased a little and we climbed back on the bikes, a passing man stops to chat, we ask him directions for the road we need. He’s cheerful and helpful and helps a little but I’m too far gone to be rescued right now. I make the right faces and sounds but none of it really hits my soul. As I climb on I notice my front tyre is a little flat. One more thing to sort out. We stop at the next garage to fill up. By this point I’ve had enough as I realise that I don’t know the required pressure off hand. I angrily pull out of the way of the car who was bearing down on my back tyre impatient to use the pump himself. At least he thanked me for that. Still not enough to ice the building rage though. A biker pulls in behind us just as I realise the machine is in bar and I’ve written the readings I’ve managed to dig out of my panniers in PSI. I’m very close to totally losing the plot by now and shoving the bike on the floor. Mickey takes over, as he so often does at this point. He knows the signs. He asks the biker behind if he knows the conversion, he doesn’t but he pulls out his phone and offers the check whilst joking about the pesky metric/imperial system. My tantrum stalls a little as I remember I’m in public. We fill the tyres and then we chat. Axel is on his way to sell his Yammy XT. He tells us he hopes to do what we’re doing one day. Having backpacked around Oz, he’s familiar with some of what we’ve been facing. It’s good to talk to someone naturally. There’s no hero worship or talk of how crazy we are – two ends of the spectrum we routinely encounter. It’s just a normal, easy conversation between like-minded people with shared interests. Energising and refreshing. (Axel – if you’re reading this and you texted, we’ve since found out the phones don’t work here, drop us a line by email!). Axel heads off on his way and we on ours. “Better?” says Mickey “Better” I reply. Man, I’m a nightmare to travel with, I wonder why he puts up with me, but he does so uncomplainingly and I love him all the more for it.
Later we stop for fuel. The landscape hasn’t been all that spectacular for the detour but hey this is the route we’re on now and I have gotten a few glimpses of the Alps, still magnificent in the distance, still snow covered. We ask for a campsite nearby. Beuren comes the response, that direction, with a bit more that I don’t understand. Mickey confirms with an English speaking customer and the prescribed 10 km down the road we pick up signs for a campsite. We find it nestled by a lake – Badsee. It’s 19 Euros but what they hey, it’s cheaper than a B&B and we don’t have many options.
We go to the Italian-Pizza place on site for dinner and mercifully remember to check whether they take cards. Mercifully because they don’t and so we need to go out in search of cash. The waitress tells us the nearest one is Isny, where we originally found out about the campsite, ironically. We unload the bikes and head out together. I’ll resent the unloading in the morning but for no I’m free to have a little fun. The evening is fine, the roads are blissfully free of traffic, full of curves and I can take them without worrying about the balance of the bike.
To my surprise the bike handles no differently than with the load. My little AJP has spirit and strength in equal measure, it’s a pleasure to dance with. I lose myself in the riding for time, out of the problems come good times, it’s a theme we’re seeing more and more but perhaps I can still afford to take to heart a little more. This is why I’m here, this is what we live for…whether I need to travel to have these moments I’m less sure but for now, I’m here and thoroughly in it.